The National Education Policy Center posted this interview with Elizabeth Dutro, whose work centers on teaching children who have experienced traumas.

We live in traumatic times. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 135,000 thousand in the U.S., and has sickened many more. The economic downtown has resulted in more than 50 million unemployment claims. Police have continued to kill unarmed people of color, touching off nationwide protests that may or may not lead to widespread permanent reforms. All of this has disproportionately impacted people of color and low-income families, who have been more likely to get sick and die from the virus, lose their jobs, and face violence at the hands of law enforcement. 

Throughout it all, schools, which serve not only as a place to learn but a sanctuary and source of comfort for many, have been closed since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With the resurgence this summer of the disease, remote instruction may continue in many places through the fall.

In the Q&A below, trauma and learning expert and National Education Policy Center Fellow Elizabeth Dutro responds to difficult questions about how teachers can effectively and respectfully address the traumas that are touching so many of their students’ lives, either in person or from afar, even as they, themselves, may be experiencing similar traumas of their own. A professor of education at the University of Colorado Boulder, Dutro is the author of The Vulnerable Heart of Literacy: Centering Trauma as Powerful Pedagogy (Teachers College Press, 2019).She is currently collaborating with children and teachers to examine what trauma means and how it functions in classrooms. Her other research interests include teachers’ opportunities to learn together in the context of their daily work and relationships with children, as well as the role of teacher education in critical and affective teaching.